by Bob Johnson
Tonight is the start of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a celebration, we are told, of the Jews rebelling against an evil Syrian king. The “miracle” of Hanukkah is that the Jews only had enough consecrated, or clergy approved, oil to last one night but their god made it last for eight nights. This gave them enough time to press and consecrate more “holy” oil for their lamps as the story goes.
The reality of Hanukkah is that the Jewish clergy did not like the fact they were losing their flocks, and therefore their power, to God-given reason.
At the time, around 200 BCE, many individual Jews were being attracted away from the fear based superstitions and ignorance of Judaism over to Hellenism which is based on nature, reason and progress. A modern example of why this would upset the high priests and other Jewish clergy can be found in the writings of the Jewish father of the neoconservaitve movement, Leo Strauss. Strauss wrote, “Judaism is a concern with return; it is not a concern with progress. ‘Return’ can easily be expressed in biblical Hebrew; ‘progress’ cannot.” The fact that “progress” cannot be expressed in biblical Hebrew speaks volumes!
The irreconcilable difference between “revealed” religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and science and real natural progress is that the “revealed” religions believe wisdom comes from fear of God as Proverbs 9:10 falsely claims. The Hellenistic idea is that wisdom comes from wonder, as Socrates said.
Again, the father of the warmongering neoconservatives Leo Strauss made this eternal difference crystal clear when he wrote1, “According to the Bible, the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord; according to the Greek philosophers, the beginning of wisdom is wonder. We are thus compelled from the very beginning to make a choice, to take a stand. Where do we stand? We are confronted with the incompatible claims of Jerusalem and Athens to our allegiance.”
Strauss asks us a very important question – is our allegiance with Jerusalem and religious ignorance and violence promoting superstitions or is it with Athens and free thought and free inquiry along with the science and progress they produce? Each of us are responsible for our own decision to either go with the man-made “revealed” religions or with our God-given reason.
1 Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You, Bob Johnson, Truth Seeker Company, p. 60
Bob Johnson is a freelance writer in the Tampa area of Florida. He was raised Roman Catholic, but after a stint in Marine Corps infantry and reading Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason he became a Deist.
In 1993 he founded the World Union of Deists, and in 1996 he launched the first website devoted to Deism. He is the author of God Gave Us Reason, Not Religion, Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You and An Answer to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He has also written the introduction to Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition and Principles of Nature by Elihu Palmer.